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These top-rated mutual funds and ETFs make excellent long-term core holdings.
Building an investment portfolio is a personal experience: What’s right for one investor may be ill-fitting for another. Factors such as risk tolerance and time horizon influence how an investor constructs a portfolio, as do things like the amount of money involved, the types of financial accounts at hand, and the level of experience and interest on the part of the investor.
Yet most investors would probably agree that they own certain funds they’d call “core holdings”: those mutual funds or exchange-traded funds they expect to do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to reaching their goals.
But what types of mutual funds and ETFs are good “core” funds?
The answer depends in part on your time horizon. For goals less than a year away, cash is the best core holding, says Morningstar portfolio strategist Amy Arnott. For goals that are, say, two to six years away, she recommends a high-quality bond fund with a short to intermediate maturity.
For longer-term goals—those a decade or longer out—Arnott says most investors should be looking to stock funds. “Typically, if you’re investing for a goal that’s at least 10 years away, you really want to be focusing on growth,” she adds.
New Morningstar research concludes that three types of stock mutual funds and ETFs make the best core portfolio holdings.
The best types of funds for the core of a long-term portfolio cluster in three Morningstar Categories: U.S. large blend, foreign large blend, and global large blend.
Why? Because the mutual funds and ETFs in these categories provide broad representation of the overall stock market, either in the United States or globally, says Arnott. As a result, these categories have a narrower dispersion of returns than other equity categories—and therefore generate more predictable returns. That’s just what investors want from their core holdings.
However, some mutual funds and ETFs in these categories are more representative of their categories than others. For instance, some funds may land in one of Morningstar’s blend categories that aren’t all that broad-based (concentrated active strategies, for instance). Funds that are unlike their categories in some way are typically less likely to be suitable core holdings for most investors, by our definition.
To compile our list of the best stock funds for the core of a long-term portfolio, mutual funds and ETFs had to meet these criteria:
These mutual funds and ETFs met our criteria for the best long-term core stock funds as of July 21, 2023.
Given our emphasis on highly rated funds that behave like the categories in which they fall, it’s no surprise that most of the stock funds on our list of the best stock mutual funds and ETFs for the core of a long-term portfolio are broad-based, low-cost index funds.
The list also includes a mix of funds that focus exclusively on U.S. stocks, exclusively on non-U.S. stocks, and funds that include both U.S. and non-U.S. stocks. Non-U.S. stocks don’t always provide U.S.-based investors with added diversification, but they have proved their mettle in particular climates. “Non-U.S. stocks have made a strong case for themselves in certain environments, such as when the dollar has declined relative to other major foreign currencies,” argues Morningstar director of personal finance and retirement planning, Christine Benz. Moreover, having exposure to international stocks provides an investor with access to the full spectrum of investment opportunities worldwide.
Those interested in going global with their core holdings might consider choosing both a U.S. large-blend and a foreign large-blend fund from our list; others might simplify with one global large-blend stock fund, which combines both U.S. and non-U.S. stocks.
Investors may want to expand their search for long-term core stock funds beyond this list, using parameters that matter to them. Here are two ways to do just that:

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